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March 28th, 2022

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Are you dreaming of discovering the secret spots of Southern Italy? Puglia, also known as Italy’s second ‘Tuscany’ and the heel of Italy, offers what seems like a never-ending list of hidden gems to discover. Whether you’re seeking an active adventure, or wanting to indulge in rich Italian cuisine, or gaze upon mesmerizing historical sites, Southern Italy has it all for your next dream trip. Spoilt for choice, the real challenge for you comes from choosing which incredible destinations to add to your itinerary. That’s why I’ve selected the top 10 hidden gems you should see in Italy. So, when you’re ready to start planning your dream trip, you’ll know exactly where to go!

 

1. Bari

Bari is simply a must for all lovers of Romanesque architecture and orecchiette pasta. Why not take up a private walking tour and step back in time to wander the streets of the beautiful old town? Stumble upon the bustling traditional harbor, marvel at 12th century Swabian architecture and get ready to indulge in a thriving local food scene.

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If you pass by Arco Alto and Arco Basso arches, you’ll find local women making and selling Bari’s famous orecchiette – a traditional Apulian pasta. The shape is perfect to collect the fresh sauces that Bari is so well known for.

2. Vesuvius National Park

Embark on a journey between history, and breathtaking landscapes with a hike in Vesuvius National Park. A short distance from Naples, Mount Vesuvius is of course famous for obliterating Pompeii in ancient history. 

The crater of this active volcano is a magnet for attracting hikers and adventure seekers from all over the world. Marvel at the many vineyards that cling to the hillsides, and take in the freshly scented air from the citrus groves.

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 On a clear day the view from Mount Vesuvius is heavenly, and well worth the trek. For the hike itself, you can choose between eleven paths totalling a length of 54 kilometers to stretch your legs. For an experienced walker, it should only take 30 minutes to walk up to the crater of the volcano that’s still active.

3. Sicily E-Bike Tour to Mount Etna

If you want to tick off this bucket list location in style, there is no better way than a unique e-bike tour to Mount Etna. The comfortable ride gives you the perfect taste of what the island of Sicily has to offer.

Locally called “Mongibello”, the majestic Mount Etna is Europe's largest and most active volcano. It’s the perfect adventure playground for those who crave heart-stopping views. With your e-bike you can seek out uncommon paths, such as my favorite from Rifugio Citelli. Pass through torrents of lava stone, glide through pine tree forests, and visit the extraordinary Serracozzo cave.

Conclude your exhilarating day of e-cycling with a visit to one of the local wineries on the Northern slopes of Mount Etna.

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4. Valle dei Templi, Agrigento

Sicilly is just full of hidden gems for you to discover. Not least is the incredible Valle dei Templi at Agrigento: Sicily’s most iconic and significant archeological site. It brings together the temples of Gods and Goddesses, as well as the area of the Necropolis. You’ll find these ancient monuments surrounded by an enchanting valley for you to explore, overlooking thepenetrating blues of the Mediterranean sea.

The site is particularly beautiful when the adorning almond trees are in full bloom. Explore the remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hercules, and the starkly beautiful Temple of Juno. 

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5. Ischia Island, Naples

Known as the ‘Green Island’, the charming Tyrrhenian island of Ischia is the perfect escape from the crowds of Capri. Overflowing with seductive beauty and wander, this volcanic island has plenty of mineral rich thermal waters for you to enjoy. After you’ve soaked up the healing properties of these waters, meander through picturesque villages, and dramatic historical sites.

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Don’t miss the acclaimed Mortella Gardens, an acclaimed botanical and landscape masterpiece. If you fancy a musical moment, book a ticket for one of the open-air concerts by the youth orchestra. Sit back and relax with an aperitif, as you listen to your heart's content on these balmy summer evenings.

6. Cilento National Park

This lesser known paradise of jutting coastline combines the verdant beauty of the surrounding hills with the deep blue hues of the sea. Cilento National Park is a world away from the crowds that populate much of the Amalfi coast. Here, you’ll be able to explore quaint traditional fishing villages, sample delicious bites at local food markets, and climb rugged trails in the countryside.

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Before you leave, ensure you pay a visit to the incredible Greek temples of Paestum, and the Greco-Roman remains of Velia. Whether you view these heritage sites in the gleaming sun, or in the romantically floodlit sunset, you’ll be lost for words.

7. Ostuni

As you drive through the charming Valle d'Itria, the beautiful village of Ostuni will catch your eye before you’ve even arrived. Nicknamed the ‘White City’, Ostuni is a labyrinth of winding alleyways, cute staircases, and pretty gardens.

This village, rich in Gothic history, is a place to be devoured slowly over days. You won’t fall short of secret pathways leading you astray to find beauty and spontaneous Italian moments. One of the attractions not to be missed is the impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral that lies upon the hilltop. Be sure to enter inside – as it’s even more dazzling.

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If you’re traveling in August, be sure to stop by one of Ostuni’s summer festivals. In particular the 15th August when the Sagra dei Vecchi Tempi comes to town. On this day you can indulge your heart's desire with delicious traditional dishes.

8. Matera caves

Matera – Italy’s magical city of stone will leave you feeling all kinds of wanderlust. Having been named Europe’s capital of culture in 2019, this ancient city is simply a dream to walk through. As you lose yourself in the rocky cascade of streets, you’ll begin to question at times whether you’ve actually stepped into a fairytale.

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What makes this city so special are the two Sassi (stone) districts, built on natural caves that have been excavated and extended over a millennia. Have your camera ready at every moment as you marvel at the warren of limestone churches, and palaces that rise above the caves. To capture that perfect panorama shot, head to the hill across the Ravine and take in the breathtaking view of rocky layers that form the city.

Although the city is awashed with unmissable churches, you’ll also find 150 more in the Park of the Rock Churches across the Gravina river. I recommend saddling up on a bike tour to seek out these hidden gems.

9.Alberobello

Peruse a typical Puglia postcard stand, and you’ll be sure to see the iconic conical roof houses called Trulli. These white-washed, limestone structures are found clustered in pockets all over this peaceful region. This style of house is native to Puglia and rare to find outside of Italy, so you really won’t find another experience like this!

Trullo of Alberobello Custom and Private Tours

What draws people to Alberobello most, is that this Unesco world heritage town plays host to the largest concentration of Trulli in the world. However, to escape the tourist traps, and find a more authentic sense of what it means to live amongst the Trulli lined streets, I suggest you head to the much quieter Rione Aia Piccola district.

In a town like Alberobello, your camera will be working overtime to keep up with the astounding beauty. For the best pictures, I recommend exploring the adorable streets before 9am to encapsulate the Trulli in all their glory.

10. Locorotondo

Nestled in the green expanse of the Valle d'Itria countryside, lies a dreamy white-washed town just waiting for you to discover – Locorotondo. This delightful village, adorned with purple and pink flora offers an authentic Italian experience at every corner.

Spend a few hours getting lost in the maze of narrow winding lanes and grand baroque archways, before dining ‘fouri’ at one of the impossibly cute restaurants Locorotondo is blessed with.

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If you’re in need of a refreshment, then why not try the signature sparkling white wine Locorotondo is famous for? I recommend heading straight to the source by visiting the main wine producer Cantina Sociale del Locorotondo, where you can indulge a truly unique tasting session.

Ready to Go?

Visit one or visit them all, these 10 hidden gems in Southern Italy will guarantee to fill your dream trip with the ultimate slice of la Dolce Vita, and life-changing moments to remember.

Will it be the ancient ‘fable like’ city of Matera, or are you craving the adventure of cycling in Sicily to the magnificent Mount Etna?

Contact one of our travel designers today, to start planning your dream trip to Southern Italy!

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